Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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How did I do on my 2017 goals?

Time to check in on how I did on my goals this year (spoiler alert: pretty bad!)

Successes:

  • Learn 12 new things (1 per month). I learned the following 12 things:
  1. Plumbing
  2. Folding a Fitted Sheet
  3. Strength training
  4. Sewing
  5. Growing Balcony Potatoes
  6. Politics
  7. Car Part
  8. Epigenetics
  9. Canning
  10. Short cuts
  11. Make-up expiry
  12. Brain rules
  • Establish a weight training program and actually do regular weight training, where “regular” = at least 2x per week for at least 3 out of 4 weeks per month. I totes kicked ass at this one – since joining Strong Side in March, I went to the gym 3x a week (with the exception of a two week period at the end of Oct/start of Nov when I was away and put my membership on hold).
  • Get gum graft surgery doneDone!
  • Make 17 new foods and/or drinks that I’ve never made before. Surpassed this goal!
  • Vague goal: Finish the letter of intent for mystery thing #2. The thing didn’t end up panning out, but I did finish the LOI.

Partially completed:

  • KonMari my condo I did most of the “clothing” category and then nothing else. I’m rolling this goal over to 2018.
  • Travel somewhere awesome. I did go to Washington, DC, which was cool, but I only got one day of sightseeing in and don’t think that qualifies as “awesome”.
  • Submit 5 papers for publication. I submitted one! And I have another that I just need to cut 100 words out of and then I can submit it (so that will be my first submission for 2018).
  • Vague goal: Finish the plan for mystery thing #1. Didn’t finish it, but did make some progress! Will be continuing to work on this in 2018.

Failures:

  • Do yoga at least 2x per week (either at home or in a class). I don’t think I did a single yoga session all year.
  • Get back to journalling regularly (where “regularly” = once a week). Nope.
  • Get a Nexus card. Been meaning to do that for a while.
  • Send an actual physical birthday card on time to all my family members and close friends. Nope.
  • Bring my lunch to work 80% of the time. I was tracking this in a Google spreadsheet and have the data from up to mid-way through Oct, when I was at a meagre 56%. But then there was some epic fail on the spreadsheet where it wasn’t saving my entries after that and I lost a couple of months worth of data and I have no idea which days I did or didn’t bring my lunch during that time. I’m guessing that I didn’t bring it above
  • Complete the 100 push up challenge. Didn’t bother with this because I’m doing my strength training programs at the gym.
  • Read 17 books. Four out of seventeen is so bad that I can’t even call this one “partially completed”. Just an epic fail!
  • Write 117 blog postings! When I hit “publish” on this posting, I’ll have published 92 blog postings this year – 97 if you count the 5 I wrote on my “professional” blog. And since I don’t have it in my to write 20 blog postings this evening, I’m accepting this as a fail and a reminder to be more diligent with blogging next year!

And that’s going to be it for my 2017 blogging. Have a great NYE everyone and see you next year!

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Brain Edition

I went to a couple of conferences this year and learned a tonne of stuff at them, but in the interest of not boring you to tears with things that are very interesting to evaluators and probably no one else, I’m just going to tell you about one of the things that I learned from one of the keynote speakers: John Medina, developmental molecular biologist who focuses on genes that are expressed in the human brain. He wrote a book called “Brain Rules” that is totally on my list of books to read in the new year. He was giving a keynote about how to give effective lectures – i.e., lectures that will actually be interesting to, and hold the attention of, the audience and will make it more likely that they will remember the stuff you are teaching them.

He talked about how our brains are constantly on the look out for things that it should pay attention to and things that it need not pay attention to. Remembering that our brains “evolved to solve problems related to surviving in an outdoor setting in varying meteorological environments while in constant motion”1, it makes sense that it is wired to pay attention to things that would promote survival in that context. The human brain processes meaning before it processes details , as you don’t really want your brain to be paying attention to how many teeth that sabre tooth tiger has before it thinks about the meaning of that mouth full of sabre tooth tiger teeth2. So, what does “meaning” mean in this context? Basically, when you observe something, the brain asks the following 6 questions, in the following order, to determine if something is worth paying attention to:

  1. Will it eat me? [i.e., is it a threat?)
  2. Can I eat it? [i.e., is it a resource I can use?]
  3. Can I have sex with it? [i.e., a potential reproductive opportunity?]
  4. Will it have sex with me? [i.e., a potential reproductive opportunity?]
  5. Have I seen it before? [i.e., pattern recognition]
  6. Have I never seen it before? [i.e., surprise]

Since these are the things that catch the attention of brains, he suggested starting lectures with anecdotes that use one of these six ways of catching the audience’s attention3 and showing them why what you are talking about is meaningful. As well, since we have relatively short attention spans, you should also use these to re-engage the audience about every 10 minutes of so.

There was a tonne more that I learned from his lecture and I’m definitely going to read his book. And then I’ll probably have to re-write every lecture that for the courses that I teach before the next time I teach them!

  1. I took pretty good notes in this keynote, so caught that quotation verbatim. []
  2. I didn’t catch that quote verbatim, but that was another of his points! []
  3. Though I think numbers 3-4 probably wouldn’t be appropriate for most lectures! []

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Christmas Eve

Putting aside all critiques about Uber and their various bad practices, this made me laugh tonight:

Reindeer Uber

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NaBloPoMo – Day 19 – O Christmas Tree

Scott and I put up the Christmas tree tonight! The cats helped, where by “helped” I mean jumped in the box as we opened it and tried to climb in the tree. Crick put her favourite toy under the tree, which can only mean she thinks it’s a gift.

Christmas tree 2017In unrelated news, I scored the game winning goal in my hockey game today. It’s a Christmas-tree-putting-up-day miracle!

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NaBloPoMo Day 9 – Conferences are exhausting

Brain so full! So many good ideas to apply to my work, new tools to try out, new things to read, etc. And there’s still two more days!

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Nerd Stats 2016

Another year goes by, another row gets added to my table of nerd stats. The stats for 2016 are up until the time of publishing this (i.e., on the afternoon of Dec 31), because I’m going out for NYE tonight so won’t be sitting around counting up the remaining nerd stats. Except for the # of blog postings – I have included this one plus one more that I’ll post after this for a total of 116 – the exact number of my goal for this year.

Blog postings Tweets1 Visits to my blog Average number of blog visits per day Busiest day on my blog
2008 423 2,227 32,410 93 Sept 26, 2008 (460 views)
2009 357 1,815 45,153 126 July 25, 2009 (1,181 views)
2010 344 2,302 44,689 122 Feb 9, 2010 (233 views)
2011 380 3,625 60,560 166 Oct 10, 2011 (374 views)
2012 201 875 63,844 175 Feb 13, 2012 (350 views)
2013 213 945 46,665 128 Sept 4, 2013 (721 views)
2014 91 910 33,948 93 Mar 7, 2014 (208 views)
2015 118 800 34,930 96 Nov 23, 2015 (512 views)
2016 116  812  51,549  141 Jan 29, 2016 (13,968 views)
% change from 2015 -1.7% +1.5% +47.6% +46.9% +2,628%

My amount of blogging and tweeting were pretty much the same as last year, but blog views were substantially above 2015, predominantly due to a record breaking nearly 14,000 blog views on Jan 29. Almost all of those were views of a small posting I did back in 2010 about the fine print on a can of Red Bull. I haven’t the vaguest idea why.

  1. Note to self: You started Tweeting in 2008, so you get these totals by simple subtraction, not by some fancy pants program or anything. I hope this helps you when you write your “Nerd Stats 2017″ posting when you think “how the hell did I figure out how many times I tweeted in a given year??” []

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Heels

As a 5 ft tall woman, I’ve grown accustomed to wearing heels so that I can walk amongst the normal height people and only look very, very short, as opposed to the very, very, very, very short that I actually am. As a shoeaholic (a trait I inherited from my mother), I have an extensive selection of heels. But I haven’t worn a pair of heels since June!

When I sprained my ankle, I figured it was pretty sensible to wear flats. Fortunately it was summer and I have a few pairs of sandals that are nice enough to wear to work. And since I’d read that when you sprain your ankle, you are at an increased risk of re-spraining it for 3-6 months afterwards, I figured as a precaution I should stick to flats for awhile even after my ankle felt better.

And then my hip problem happened. So I’ve continued to not wear heels, given the limping and the cane and, though I am now on the mend, I’m not 100% and so I don’t want to re-aggregate it. But here’s the thing: it’s no longer summer, so I can’t wear my sandals. I really only have one pair of work-appropriate flats and then are burgundy, so they don’t go with everything (I have one pair of black shoes that have a platform with a slight heel that I do wear sometimes because it feels more stable than a regular heel). Three of my four pairs of work-appropriate boots (plus my one pair of ankle boots) are heeled. And last night I slipped on my way home from dinner and when I got home and took off my one pair of work-appropriate flat boots, I noticed this.

I don't think these are going to be waterproof anymore

Somehow I don’t think these will be waterproof anymore

I think it’s time to go shoe shopping.

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Introducing My New Cleaning Crew

So, Andrew is something of a neat freak1,2 and suggested that perhaps I should clean my algae-adorned frog tank more often than once a century. And while I sort of agreed in principle – i.e, I agreed with the notion that the frog tank should be cleaned, but disagreed with the notion that *I* should personal do any more cleaning than is absolutely necessary. So I have decided to outsource this work to three otocinclus catfish.

Untitled

One of my three new ottos

These little guys are algae-eaters who can happily co-habit with Tyrion Froggister, Copernicus the Third, and Timbit.

The only thing they need now are names. My initial thought was to call them Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar, but I feel like it’s a little too trendy and once the PokéCraze is over the names will seem dated. So if anyone has ideas of a better trio after whom to name them, I’m willing to take suggestions3

Untitled

Three little otto fish!

  1. Given this, why he’s dating me is something of a mystery. []
  2. He’s an accountant, so this is to be expected, I suppose. []
  3. Except Larry, Curly, & Moe. That’s a non-starter. []

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I’m In It For The Wine

So I’m one week away from my next half marathon – the Kelowna Wine Country half. When I set my goals for 2016, I had big plans to really focus on my training to finally Posterior Hip Muscles 3.PNGbreak the 2 hour barrier that stayed just out of reach in my races last year. But a series of annoying illnesses and sprained ankle have hampered my training and forced me to recalibrate my goal. After taking three weeks off due to my sprained ankle, I did manage to do 1 long run in July (16 km) and 3 long runs in August (a 17 km, an 18 km, and a 19 km), but I didn’t manage to fit in any speedwork. And in the last week I’ve been dealing with an insanely tight gluteus medius muscle. Like so tight that I’ve been limping and have been unable to run without a lot of pain. And so I haven’t run. My massage therapist theorized that it might be from the fact that my left ankle was not 100% so I was compensating and putting extra pressure on my right gluteus medius and now I’m in this state. So I had some massage and I’ve been stretching and foam rolling and I had an Epsom salt bath yesterday and I tried running again this morning and it definitely still hurts, though not as bad as it was. I’m hoping that if I continue to stretch and roll it for the rest of this week I’ll be able to loosen it up enough to get through the half marathon next Sunday. So that’s basically my recalibrated goal: I would like to be able to finish the race. I figure that I’ll just try to enjoy the scenery and be motivated by the fact that there is a wine festival waiting for me when I cross the finish line! Wish me luck!
Image credit: CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=545381

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I’m Jammin’

Jam makingMy friends Tig and Pat have a fig tree. A fig tree that produces about eleventy billion figs. And since two people cannot possibly make use of eleventy billion figs, when the figs are ready, they invite their friends over for a big party where everyone eats, drinks, is merry, and those who are daring get to climb a tree to harvest the figs.

So, on Saturday I came home with a bag of figs and the idea that I should make some jam. Of course, I have never before made jam in my life, but no time like the present, right? After a wee bit o’ research on the internets and a trip to Canadian Tire to buy the requisite supplies, I was ready toJam making jam. But since I needed to be able to justify the purchase of said supplies, I decided that I should try my hand at a few different jams. And since blueberries and apricots are currently in season1, I picked some of them up at the produce market.

Now, the internets told me that to make fig jam, you just need to cook up your figs, sugar, and lemon juice – no need to add pectin because figs Jam makinghave lots of pectin in their skin. So I followed the internet instructions, and then “processed” my jam2. Then I made some blueberry jam and some apricot jam following the instructions that came with the box of pectin.

Now, the blueberry and the apricot jams gelled up nicely, but the fig jam, not so much – when I checked it the next day, it was sloshing around. More of a fig sauce than a fig jam:

So I went back to the internets, which told me that I could fix jams that hadn’t gelled by dumping it back into a pot, adding more sugar, lemon, and pectin3, and then re-boiling it and processing it all over again4. So I did that and now I have…. thicker fig sauce. The internets tells me that fig sauce is nice on duck and pork, so if anyone wants to have some fig sauce, let me know – I can totally hook you up with that.

My first ever homemade jams!My first ever homemade jams!As for the jams, I tasted then yesterday. The blueberry one, imho, is underwhelming. It’s a good consistency, but the blueberry flavour just isn’t that intense. Luckily, I only made two and a half jars of it. The apricot jam, however, I think is much nicer. It’s also the right jammy consistency and the flavour stands out a little more. I ended up having more apricots than I could use in  my first batch, so bought more pectin and made a second batch the next day. But this time I used liquid pectin, just to see what the difference is like. I haven’t tried that batch yet – I didn’t want to have two opened jars of apricot jam at the same time. But I’ll report back once I try it.

Now that I have the canning equipment, I’m kind of excited to use it some more. Blackberries are almost in season and there are tonnes of wild blackberries in the Lower Mainland, so I think I’ll go pic I’m also thinking that homemade jam could be pretty excellent filling for macarons.When the jalapeños from my balcony garden are ready, I’m totally making jalapeño jelly! I also want to make some pickled beets and some spicy pickled green beans.

Anyone else have any other suggestions of things that I could can?

  1. The fruit all seem to be coming earlier than normal this year, probably because we had summer weather way back in April and all the plants got confused. []
  2. I.e., put it in jars that had been boiled, top the jars with lids that had been heated, put the rings on until they are “finger tip tightened” and then boiled the jars for 10 mins []
  3. The recipe gave the amounts to use, depending on how much non-jammed jam you had. []
  4. I also learned that you can’t re-use the lids – they are designed as single use because the part that seals to the jar gets altered when you use it the first time, so it won’t make a good seal if you try to re-use it, and sealing the stuff in is sort of the whole point of canning. So now I have a bunch of round medal circles that I think I need to do something with, because it just seems like a waste to throw them out. Christmas ornaments, perhaps? []